Thursday, March 23, 2006

How do you deal with criticism?

I went to a critique group last night. They have been meeting monthly on a day I haven't been able to attend, so I haven't been there for a long time. I'm actually not even an official member at this point, my attendance has been that bad. This is a good group of people. Their focus is on helping people improve their art. The criticism is given as "here's an idea." And then you can take it our leave it. I like these people, and trust their opinions in general.

7 Extinction Events

When I showed them 7 Extinction Events I thought they would say "put real footprints where the dinosaur book is supposed to stand." Instead they liked the book, but didn't like the environment. Two people didn't mind, or actually liked the environment. Three others seemed to agree that it didn't work.

Here are some of the comments:
  • It's too crafty - needs to be more artistic
  • It's not enough like my work in general (serious and humorous at the same time)
  • It's too small
And some of their suggestions:
  • Paint the base black or brown so it looks like a silhouette
  • Extend the base and add some fossils
  • Make the base pivot to show fossils
  • Add a road, so the dinosaur is walking into the future
  • Add a lightning bolt to represent a disaster about to overtake him
  • Put scenes from the book, or in that style, around the base
  • Put fossils or something else on the bottom and mount the whole thing over a mirror so people can see the bottom
  • Make my own pedestal (I found out last night that it looks great on a rock slab coffee table - but what wouldn't?)
  • Make some disasters, like a bolt of lightning or a comet, that people can choose and insert into the base.
  • Make the palm trees out of copper
I have to sift through this and make a decision. Unfortunately I have already taken a bunch of photos, so that time may be lost. But I think some of these ideas were in the back of my head somewhere, and I was ignoring them. The point that resonates the most with me is that the base isn't like my work in general. Right now I'm thinking I'll make a copper palm tree to see how I like it. I had originally considered this, and decided it was a crazy idea. And I do like the idea of putting collage around the sides of the base. I do not believe that less is more, when it comes to art.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

My Miniature Farm

When I was a girl, we moved a lot. My dad was a career army officer. It's a hard life for kids. We saw tons of amazing things, but were torn from our friends on a regular basis. We weren't allowed animals because it was hard to take them overseas. I dreamed of having a cat and a horse. I also wanted to marry a farmer and to live in Kentucky. Instead of a cat, I had a miniature farm on my night stand. It was completely imaginary. There was a horse, dogs and cats, and tiny chickens and ducks. I don't think I kept cows, but I did have some sheep. I would lie in bed and imagine a white farmhouse that I lived in, with a red barn behind. I would go out into the yard and feed the animals, pet the cats and dogs, and ride on the horse. It was my whole world.

This is the beginning of my love of working small. My work may be tiny, but it can hold the entire universe, like my night stand.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Workshop Report, Part Two

In Part One I talked about the workshop. Here I'll talk about some of the books the students made.

We used copper clad plastic for the pages and the covers of the books. This is a material used to make pc boards. It is a thin sheet of plastic on the inside, covered on both the front and back with a thin layer of copper. It takes a patina like regular copper. It is also much easier to cut with a jeweler's saw than copper, which starts people out with an advantage. Before the workshop I cut out the covers and three pages for each book. Each book is 2 inches high. I also drilled holes in the books so they could be bound with two jump rings. I wanted to save them some time so they could get right to the fun part. Six hours isn't long enough to really get involved with a project.

The finished books were all very different. They were all the same size, the same material, and started with the same number of pages. But everyone had different ideas about how to embellish the books.

For some reason Blogger won't let me post photos right now. I have no idea what's going on. There are links to each image that I talk about. There are also more photos of student's books on my web site in the Student Gallery.

Viviane cut a page with a shape that came up out of her book to echo a cherub. She also added paper pages between the copper ones.

Patty used the jeweler's saw to cut out a wave shape and a fish for her cover. She also used bead chain instead of jump rings to bind her book.

Rosine took it to heart when I said books don't have to close and added metal screening pages with things wired on.

Some people are good at coming into a workshop and making a finished product that they are happy with. Others spend their time learning the techniques, but don't have a finished thing to take home. I think either way works fine. I am the second type of person. It takes me a long time to take in the ideas in a way that I can relate to in my work. So when I'm teaching, I try to make sure people get the techniques, and don't worry about the finished products too much. This is one area where on-going classes are better than workshops. There is more time to develop ideas.

Next: I need to clean up the huge mess on my worktable and start taking photos of 7 Extinction Events. (I said that last week, too, didn't I?)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Workshop Report, Part One

The workshop went well. It was a very nice group of 10 people. Four people drove down from Sacramento for the day. How flattering! Some had metalworking skills, some didn't. I wish there had been more time to talk. One thing I like about a class that meets weekly is being able to get to know people. I like to know what media they usually work in and what they want to do with the metalworking skills.

Book making supplies

Here you can see some of the raw materials for the books.

Looking for the right part

Here is one of the people from Sacramento, looking for the right part.

The jeweler's saw is hard for most people at first. I was impressed with how well this group did. And the little ear post rivets require some patience. This group became rivet queens pretty quickly. They were amazing.


I usually come away from teaching a class feeling inspired to get back into the studio. I get to see art through other people’s eyes. In the studio my mind thinks along a track, with occasional derailments, which might lead to good ideas. It's really fun to get it derailed by watching other people work on their art.

Next: Workshop Report, Part Two. A few shots of the books made in the workshop.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Deborah Barrett at the Palo Alto Art Center

We went to see the Deborah Barrett show at the Palo Alto Art Center. As I was getting ready to go, I thought “is this worth the time?” I have seen Deborah Barrett’s work at the Art Center many times. And I do admire it very much. But this time, I thought, “there will be no surprises, should I stay home and make art?” Boy, was I surprised! Deborah’s collage techniques are varied and fascinating. She incorporates old fabrics by sewing bits to the paper. Sometimes a square of old paper defines the area that a head fills. I thought I would see more of the same. There were certainly lots of wonderful collages. But there were also some figures of women, little heads made of dryer lint, fabric and plaster and a mouse paper doll that she made when she was a child. Her work has changed a lot over a period of ten years, and yet it always has the same small scale, personal element that appeals to me. I want to climb into the frame and look around some more. I want to get into her head and watch her work in her studio.

My favorite collage is “Man and woman pointing at mouse.” (1995) The woman looks fairly womanly, but the man’s body is made of an old rectangle of frayed fabric, so he is very hairy. His nose is very mousey. And his arm that points at the mouse ends not in human fingers, but in little claws. The mouse on the other hand looks like he has stolen a lot from the appearance of the man.

The mouse paper doll is wonderful. Squeaky has ears bigger than his head. And a pair of ear muffs to keep them warm. Mice occur in many of Deborah’s more “mature” works, too. In fact many of the people in her collages have mouse features, and the mice look very human.

There are many lessons here for beginning artists. The things you love as a child are the essence of who you are. And they are a field of ideas for future work. Deborah Barrett says "I make something that has no other purpose in the world except to comfort me."